US to see how Israel’s far-right lawmakers act before passing judgement: Envoy

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The United States plans to see what Israel’s far-right politicians say “and how they act” before taking a position on its incoming government, the US ambassador said.

Veteran Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu secured a return to office after his bloc of far-right and religious parties last week won a solid majority in the fifth national election in less than four years.

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“This is a country that is a democracy with elected leadership and I intend to work with them,” Ambassador Tom Nides in an interview with public broadcaster Kan that aired on Thursday.

“That said, we have to stand up for the things that we believe in. That’s what American values are about.”

In consultations about the next government on Wednesday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog warned that “the whole world is worried” about the possible inclusion of ultranationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir in the new ruling coalition.

Ben-Gvir -- who wants to be police minister -- was convicted in 2007 of racist incitement against Arabs and support for Kach, a militant group blacklisted by Israel and the United States.

A settler living in the West Bank, which Israel captured and occupied in 1967, Ben-Gvir wants the Palestinian Authority, which has limited rule in parts of the territory under interim peace deals, dismantled. That would challenge US policy in the Middle East.

Ben-Gvir, who heads the Jewish Power party, also supports Jewish prayer on a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site, a position that stokes regional tensions.

The United States has so far publicly reserved judgement pending the new coalition’s formation, a position that Nides repeated on Thursday while emphasizing the “unbreakable ties” between the two countries.

“Until I know and we know who has what positions and the positions they take, then we'll determine what conversations will take place,” he said.

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